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Written - Renewable Energy Route Map

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Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing

In One Wales, the Assembly Government sets out its strong commitment to tackling climate change, including actions on diversified renewable energy generation. As the first strategic step to fufilling the latter commitment, I am publishing today for consultation, a Renewable Energy Route Map for Wales

The Assembly Government fully recognises importance of minimising future global warming and is very determined to show how Wales, as a small but clever nation, can be at the global forefront of the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have already embarked on a major climate change campaign.

Previously we have also announced ambitious plans to stimulate much more energy efficiency and micro-generation in Wales, including our ambition that new buildings are constructed to zero carbon standards from 2011 onwards, and in today’s document we are focusing mainly on how we might exploit our tremendous renewable energy resources. In particular we believe that with Wales’ coastline, geography and climate, it is quite feasible for us within 20 years to produce more electricity from renewables than we consume as a nation.

With sufficient innovation and investment, the right Government framework and public support, Wales could produce some 33TWhr per year of electricity from renewable sources-with about a half of this from marine, a third from wind and the rest mainly from sustainable biomass (from indigenous and imported material). Wales current electricity consumption is around 24TWhr per year.

If we were to achieve this, then not only could Wales electricity needs be meet in their entirety from low carbon energy sources but we would also contribute significantly to the UK’s energy security objectives-in particular by reducing our dependence on imported fuels in a world where energy geopolitical developments are of increasing concern.

This route map- with some 50 specific actions with a strong focus on environmental, community and overcoming barriers- not only describes how we might meet the renewable electricity self sufficiency objective but also:

  • explains how biomass resources could be used for significant renewable heat production, and
  • support challenging energy efficiency and small scale micro-generation ambitions: these will be expanded further in a full scale national energy efficiency and savings plan which we will publish for consultation later this year.

The route map is split into three main sections, dealing first with each of the renewables technologies, second, energy efficiency/micro-generation/distributed generation and, third, the key contextual issues of planning consents, electricity grid infrastructure and R&D capability.

On the renewable technologies, the main table in the RERM illustrates our current best estimate of the practicable heat and electricity generation outputs from each of the technologies by 2025.

Of particular interest would be proposals for joint private public operations which could establish effective energy services companies focused on community level initiatives. We are also considering whether Convergence Funds could be used to fund a tidal lagoon feasibility study competition.

Compared to energy generation using fossil fuels, we estimate that achieving the renewable energy aspirations in this route map would save some 4 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year and contribute towards our programme to reduce Wales’ CO2 emissions by 3% a year in areas of devolved competence.

The plans we are outlining today require the investment of many £billions. We fully recognise the vital input from the private sector to achieving the rapid transition to a low carbon economy and we wish to explore with all concerned, including enlightened communities, innovative financial and organisational vehicles which might accelerate developments.

In pursuit of these vital objectives, I will be working closely with all my Cabinet colleagues, but especially the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Education and Skills Minister to ensure a holistic approach within Wales-including meshing these objectives and actions with those in our associated 'green jobs' and ‘sustainable development skills’ strategies. Similarly I will liaise closely with the relevant UK Ministers, and European Commissioners.

This route map does not discuss large scale energy production in Wales from fossil fuel and nuclear sources, but we will be publishing an overarching Assembly Government energy strategy later this year which will set out our formal policies in these and other areas, including renewables in even more detail- once we have reflected on the responses to this consultation.

We appreciate that the aspirations in this document are challenging, but the growing importance of fighting ever increasing climate change means these potentially controversial issues have to be faced -and only through our major climate change campaign and dialogues such as the ones we are triggering today, will we achieve the support of the public for the paths we are proposing.

Many experts believe that minimising the risk from climate change is the biggest global challenge that humanity has ever faced. I agree. In Wales we must do all that we can to minimise our greenhouse gas emissions. And, above all we need the public to understand the perils we face and why we have to start dealing seriously with the issues now. The consultation we are beginning today is an important step to securing the necessary public support and I would ask for the active involvement of you all as we embark on this vital endeavour